Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: Dave Callaham, Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham
Based on: Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin‘s character
Cast: Simu Liu, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Benedict Wong, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Brie Larson
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 6.9.2021

Shaun (Simu Liu) tried to built a life for himself, away from his father Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) and Wenwu’s private army, the Ten Rings – including actual ten rings that give Wenwu awesome powers. And for the last decade, Shaun has been pretty successful in his endeavor. Not even his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) suspects that there is more to him than a party-loving valet. Until a group of fighters led by Razor Fist (Florian Munteanu) attack Shaun and he has to finally confront his past, his family, and his future. Not without Katy, though.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a thoroughly enjoyable film with a good mix of fighting, emotions and humor. I had a very good time with it.

The film poster showing Shaun (Simu Liu), his father Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) looming large behind him, wearing the ten rings. The two can be seen fighting as smaller figures in the front. Other important characters are arranged around them.

The film may have the Legend of the Ten Rings in its title, but really, the rings are the least important part of the film. At its heart, it’s the story of a broken family – broken by the loss of its heart. And nobody is more broken than Wenwu, and there is nobody better than Leung to play him, giving him all the soulfulness and depth that is necessary that even grumpy old me isn’t complaining about yet another superhero with daddy issues. Things are allowed to be more complicated than that. (Which also makes me forgive the part where a woman is responsible for saving a man. It would have been his responsibility to keep it together.)

And if that sounds depressing, it should be – but miraculously the film is anything but depressing. While there is room for sadness, it’s also brilliantly funny. And the fun and humor outweigh the darker parts by far. It’s to Liu’s credit that his character is believably both Shaun, the aimless slacker, and Shang-Chi, the superhero with the tragic past and the big calling. This mirrors the double nature of the film itself and makes it work in the first place.

Shaun (Simu Liu) in a fighting pose, fighting stick in hand

Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) gets a bit shortchanged by the film, but that, too, mirrors the family dynamics perfectly – and is the best set-up for the sequel one could ask for. (Also, Xialing and Katy had steaming chemistry, and if this wasn’t a Disney production, I’m sure that we would have seen smooching. Maybe we will. Hope springs eternal.) Yeoh and Kingsley (the latter a wonderful surprise in his role) in their supporting roles give the film the final polish.

But Shang-Chi isn’t just a family drama, it is also an action film with beautiful fight scenes that are just really impressive to watch. And it is a fantasy film with beautiful settings and creatures. Both are captured by impeccable camera work. It’s fast-paced and there isn’t a boring second. More movies should be like it.

Shaun (Simu Liu) looking pensive, holding an origami dragon.

Summarizing: pretty damn great.

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